The pickup parked on Main Street full of moose
belongs to the guy sitting in the diner booth
with apple pie & cheddar on his plate.
No one dares touch it, though
we gather round the bed the way folks do
at a county fair when blue-ribbons get paraded.
And though this heap of flesh animating dusk
with a halo of swarming flies
has no names to mark its flank, no words
to flag the region of fine hairs near its marbled eyes,
nor the provinces of long and tapered legs
it once used to clamber—clumsily, gracefully—
up slopes of birch and spruce, the body’s stillness
offers access: a topography ripe with thresholds
to imagined existence. Its ample form reminds me
of an enormous raised relief map I’d seen as a boy
in West Virginia: the Monongahela Forest dwarfed,
housed in glass. Brierpatch Mountain to Spruce Knob,
the wimpled earth swirled with contours, a work done
in great blotches of green and beige and brown,
revealing lookouts, balds, and creek gullies. I began there—
Ketterman Knob, Timber Ridge, Sinks of Gandy—
and followed the easy slip into remoteness, possibility.
Red switchback roads, little clutches of black
(Elkins, Harman, Whitmer, Judy Gap),
the North Fork of the South Branch
running blue into the heart: old place I am forever
returning. Carry me. Carry me back.
In the afterglow of evening in this village in Vermont,
Butternut, Whiteface, and Madonna peer
into the truck bed like some perverse nativity
as the wind unhinges a skein of scarlet leaves
that swirl and light onto the hide.
Gloaming smolders to night
and the lines of moose are lost to shadows.
I walk away, speaking the names
that let me wend again through that land
of slantwise tobacco barns, silviculture,